Image by Gretta Blankenship from Pixabay

Not far away but they are having the same trouble with trash. They lost power and Ida hit them hard. This is Bayou Segnette’s story.

It wasn’t until a week after Hurricane Ida’s violent passage that Ronald “Bay-bay” Laborde was finally able to return to his house along Bayou Segnette. He cried bitterly when he saw the state of his home, Laborde said, and his tears didn’t stop for days. More than 2 feet of water had entered the house, and the back laundry room was blown apart. In the weeks since, he and his son have torn out the ruined insulation, flooring and furniture, piling it on the front dock. But Laborde’s recovery efforts, and those of more than 100 other Bayou Segnette camp owners, have been challenging: A month after Ida, they still lack power and have yet to receive any assistance with debris removal. It’s not clear when those hurdles will be overcome, thanks to the small community’s remoteness and other unusual circumstances. For Laborde, who suffers from congestive heart disease, the need for electricity is especially pressing. The machines helping his heart pump blood through his body need a reliable power source to plug into each night. “I’m living off batteries,” he said, walking around his gutted house with his life-saving machines holstered on his hips. “I can’t sleep on these batteries for a year. The doctor doesn’t want me sleeping on them now.”

Living in a small community far from civilization, although not many miles, has its perks but also its downsides.

Laborde is one of just eight full-time residents along Bayou Segnette in a community of 135 camps tucked away in the marshes, about 5½ miles south of Westwego. All are dealing with severe flood and wind damage to their homes, and many fear the pace of recovery could be as sluggish as it was after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Back then, it took a year for the community to regain electricity, and now residents pay extra fees for service, said Kermen Thibodaux, another full-time resident. The prolonged loss of power and uncertainty around when restoration might occur is the largest source of worry. Like Laborde, the Dubrocs, an elderly couple who reside in the community full-time, can’t live in a house without electricity. Neither can the Benton family, which also lives on the bayou full time. They homeschool their 9-year-old. “Even on normal days, the power goes out and isn’t fixed for nine days,” Calvin Benton said, looking out the back the of his flooded home at the power line standing in his yard. “I’m at a standstill right now.” Danny Dubroc agreed. “We’re always last,” he said.

We;’re always last. I know that this is not a good rationale but to service 8 families or help hundreds. There is a philosophical statement there – the greatest good for the greatest number.

On Monday, Entergy Louisiana spokesman Brandon Scardigli confirmed that a restoration timeline is unavailable, though the company has completed a damage assessment. “In Bayou Segnette specifically, varying depths of mud, scattered growths of vegetation and vast stretches of water require crews to utilize heavy-duty boots, specific clothes and equipment, as well as high-water vehicles, airboats, drones and helicopters,” he said. “All of these can make restoration a much more time-consuming process.” On top of the power loss, heaps of debris containing everything from the remains of collapsed roofs and soggy mattresses to mounds of marsh grass are stranded on properties isolated in what’s considered unincorporated Jefferson Parish. Masses of floating marsh that came unmoored from the bayou during the storm clog the waterway. “Just about everybody’s got damage,” said camp owner Mike Choate, nicknamed “Mayor Mike.” He returned to the area two days after Ida, coming up from the south to check on his neighbors’ properties and start the cleanup. Choate said he’s called Westwego and parish officials for help with removal, to no avail.

The residents may also be in a bad position as they lease the land so they have no standing as homeowners. They also don’t pay for Parish services. Another strike against them.

The camp owners along Bayou Segnette build their homes on property they lease from the Edward Wisner Donation Trust, paying $1,000 each year for their lots. Responsible for their own trash disposal, they don’t pay for any parish services, and that’s left them in limbo in terms of debris removal. Jefferson Parish officials and Westwego Mayor Robert Billiot Sr. both say the community is situated out of their jurisdiction. Jefferson Parish Assistant Director of Environmental Affairs Katherine Costanza and Billiot said that the Wisner Trust, as the landowner, is responsible for applying for emergency debris removal assistance from the state Governor’s Office for Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. Amanda Phillips, the Wisner Trust’s land manager and administrator, said she’s feels like she’s been running around in circles, going from agency to agency for help since Sept. 2. She said she’s spoken with local and state officials, including the GOHSEP and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. But the agencies told her that there wasn’t any language attached to aid from the Federal Emergency Management Authority that permits for debris collection from private property. “I think the problem that we are facing is bureaucracy,” she said. “There’s nothing in FEMA to allow for this.”

She also seems to want it for free rather than paying a company to do it.

Recognizing the overwhelming amount of debris, Phillips said she’s committed to pursuing all avenues available to assist the camp owners, but she’s unsure what the solution will look like. “Normally, when a camp owner needs a new fridge, they buy a fridge, put it on their boat and take it to their camp,” she said. “Now, they need a new fridge, a stove, Sheetrock, a roof, windows and all their furniture. You just can’t put that in your boat and get it out. They need help.”

This explains why I could not live in that much isolation. For a vacation, yes, but to live permanently, no. I don’t need a city though.

So near yet so far away for Entergy
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